Anonymity & Ancient Feline Tribes: An interview with Inbali Iserles
by Elizabeth Rose Murray (originally posted on Listowel Writers’ Week 2011 blog)
Tell us about your latest book, The Tygrine Cat: On the Run.
The Tygrine Cat: On the Run is the sequel to my feline fantasy, The Tygrine Cat. It follows the adventures of a young cat called Mati, who is last in line to the Tygrine throne and a descendent of the first cats that walked the earth. The leader of the rival Sa Mau tribe has set a murderous creature on his trail. Can cruelty and despair crush Mati’s will – or is there an even greater power at work?
What are the biggest challenges when writing children’s fiction?
Children are exacting critics, who rightfully expect stories with vivid imagery, pace and energy, compelling characters and intriguing plot twists. Clarity in narrative structure is important, particularly in fantasy adventure, to root the reader firmly inthe world you have created. When I started out I worried about keeping the language simple but that never materialised as a problem – it is folly to underestimate readers!
So what made you decide to become a writer and to write for children in particular?
I never really decided to be a writer. Stories disturbed my thoughts or found themselves on the pages of my notebooks. Whenever I wasn’t ignoring them, I’d be writing. I didn’t decide to write for children either! Again, the story came first: I came up with an idea of a war between ancient feline tribes, and the subject matter seemed more suited to younger readers.
What do you try to achieve through your books?
I don’t set out to do anything more than to tell a particular story as well as I possibly can. Like anyone, I have opinions, ideals, ideologies and aspirations, but I avoid straightforward “morality” tales. My hope is that the reader will identify with the characters, will be carried by the story, and that it moves them in some way.
Your books contain stunning names – Cressida Lock for example. Where do you get your inspiration? What comes first – the plot or the names?
Thank you! I love coming up with names (although, in the words of T.S. Eliot, “The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter”). I was about to say that plot always comes first, but that isn’t quite true. Mati, the main character in The Tygrine Cat stories, appeared before the first book was plotted, and while I knew that a beautiful black tom would lead the Cressida Cats, it wasn’t until I visited the Book of Kells in Dublin that I found of his name: Pangur, from the old Irish poem, Pangur Bán.
Tell us about your road to publication – was it relatively simple or an arduous journey? Did you have the agent first? What did it feel like when you got your publishing deal?
I didn’t even try to approach publishers without an agent – I’d read all the “no unsolicited manuscripts” warnings on publishers’ websites and thought there was little point. Not having any contacts in the writing world, I did things by the book – literally! I bought myself a copy of The Children’s Writers & Artists’ Yearbook and identified suitable agents. I spoke to several before signing with Pat White at Rogers, Coleridge & White, and she negotiated my publishing deal. Needless to say, it felt incredible – and more than a smidge unreal.
In the past, readers saw writers as strange, almost mythical creatures – aloof, unreachable, mysterious. But writers are much more accessible today – what impact does this have on writers and readers?
It’s true, with a shift to social networking and online forums, everyone seems more accessible and information is instantaneous. Most writers have websites and many (myself included) are on Facebook. This is good news for readers, who have the opportunity to interact with their favourite writers, and it’s thrilling to receive fan messages. On the downside, it does rather feel that we are all crumbling under the pressure of emails and other correspondence, and instantaneous access implies a demand for a quick response. This leads me to conclude that anonymity is not to be sniffed at, but I fear it’s a thing of the past – particularly with a name like mine!
That’s true. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions but before we go, is there anything you’d like to add?
A fan in the US created a beautiful animation for the Tygrine Cat books, which sums up the stories better than I could have – you can view the Tygrine Cat animation here. You can also find out more info about me at: www.inbaliiserles.com
(To view this interview on the Writers Week blog, click here)